According to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate in the United States has increased 30% since 1999. This trend is across all social classes, genders, and ages. Sociologists and mental health professionals have wondered for nearly twenty years: why is America's suicide rate rising?
There are many factors at play when considering this question, but experts believe that the main reasons why we’re seeing more suicides in our country is because of increased stress, a stigma surrounding mental health disorders, increased drug and alcohol addiction, and various life crises.
We are living with more stress today than ever before. The Great Recession that happened 10 years ago caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose their homes, their businesses, and their income. This caused increased stress and a marginal increase in the suicide rate at the time. But in addition, we need to look at everyday stress. We put ourselves through stressful situations both in our professional and personal relationships, which can really take a toll on our well-being.
If you feel overworked or anxious, seek help from a professional therapist, or figure out the stressors in your life and, if possible, rid yourself of them. For example, if your job has you working 60 hour weeks with work you hate, you might want to find a new job. No pay is worth your well-being and, potentially, your life. Below are also some ways to de-stress after a long day:
Stay in tune with your mind and know your limit with stress, anxiety, and responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to speak up and get help if needed.
Mental Health Disorder Stigma
It’s unclear how many reported suicide victims suffer from mental illness, but the number is likely high. It’s hard to determine this information because many people are afraid to get help or they have an undiagnosed mental health disorder, which can then exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
Although mental health is being more recognized in our society, there is still a stigma surrounding things like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and many others. Some people think that if they have a mental health disorder, there’s “something wrong with them” or that it can be changed. For example, someone with depression might just be seen as sad and may even be told things like “just get over it.” But instead of this view, we should approach mental illness as any other physical illness. If you break your arm, you go to the doctor. No one will say “just get over it.” We know where to get the help we need for our physical ailments. But what about our mental health? Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists are professionally trained to help address these mental health concerns. By changing this stigma surrounding mental health, we may be able to slow suicide rates and share the message that it’s okay to get help when you need it, and it’s okay to put your mental health first.
Increased Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Addiction and suicide have a very scary link. Many people who struggle with addiction also have a dual diagnosis of a mental health condition, and as we discussed above, people with mental health conditions may be more likely to commit suicide. The three are intertwined, and the stats prove it. For example, the National Alliance on Mental Health shares that “substance abuse increases the likelihood that a person will commit suicide and drugs and alcohol are the common means for committing the act of suicide.”
There are key signs to look for if you suspect that you or someone you love is struggling with a mental illness, substance abuse, or both. Below are some red flags:
- Distancing themselves from others or hobbies that they enjoy
- Lack of ability to complete everyday tasks
- Constant alcohol or drug use
- Statements like “I don’t want to do this anymore”
- Sudden aggressive behavior
- Prolonged stress
- A history of abuse
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and takes way too many lives with it. But if we understand the factors that may increase suicide rates, we can do everything possible to prevent it. We can start by removing the stigma surrounding mental illness, limiting our stress or stressful situations, and getting ourselves or our loved ones help if they are facing substance abuse.
is a freelance writer and recovering addict and alcoholic who's been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.